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The mob began to grow and they didn't want my autograph, financial advice, or how to get a cheap deal, they wanted a straight answer to a single question - "where did you get those shoes?"
I was now surrounded by a dozen or more eager interrogators. I didn't want to lie. I thought about it, paused, and confessed "My friend gave them to me".
That wasn't the answer they were looking for, "You got them from a friend?! Somebody just gave them to you? Where did he get them from? Did he have to go straight to Nike to Beaverton, Oregon?"
I didn't know. I was starting to feel the heat. But it didn't matter, I had the shoes and therefore, I was cool - very cool in their eyes. For one brief moment, I was a rock star of footwear...to 12 and 13 year old boys. Not exactly the demographic group I want to impress.
Apparently, the shoes I was wearing couldn't be bought at any store anymore. They were special shoes that you had to have a connection to get and they stopped making them. The kind of stuff I was clueless about. And for someone who always thought they didn't care about fashion - it was cool. I hate to overuse that word - but trust me - it was cool. A little unnerving and awkward for someone that doesn't like to draw the attention of a crowd, but cool, nonetheless.
Of course, I now have to think about whether I want to wear these shoes every day. Will more throngs of teen boys crowd me wherever I go? Will I be subjected to the same intense interrogations? Perhaps it's best to limit the sneakers to gym workouts or jogging, places where thankfully people leave me alone. I just don't fee comfortable walking out in public with them - but for someone else, they probably are the equivalent of some fashion drug.
So I finally get it. I understand why some people are driven to have the latest, greatest, coolest, hippest stuff. Whether it is Nike shoes, a Mercedes, a Prada handbag, a 65" plasma, or a Palm Island Mansion in Dubai. We live in a society where recognition, of a certain type, can be bought. And believe it or not, that's OK, provided you have the means to support your habit.
At the heart of all of these consumer excesses and brand name obsessions is the drive to get that fix. I finally got a taste of that powerful intoxicant. Call it whatever you want, but the rush from that fashion fix compels consumers to do irrational things. Things like driving themselves into bankruptcy while maintaining their outward appearances. And while current circumstances are curtailing expenditures on fashion thrills, consumers are above all else, human. Which means that when the dust settles on this recession and the debt binge, many consumers will go right back to craving recognition and status. So enjoy your Nike shoes, Gucci handbag, or new Lexus, but do so only when you can afford it not when somebody will lend you the money.
And while all of those purchases might make you look cool, it probably won't make one bit of difference to those that really matter. See, the only recognition I want is from that kid I went to pick up from school. My son would have been happy to see me barefoot.
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